A few dozen people, garbed in cloaks and witches hats while carrying brooms, gathered in front of the state Capitol steps Wednesday evening to “fight the patriarchy.”
The “Michigan Witches Against the Patriarchy” protest, hosted by Fems for Dems and Metro-Detroit Political Action Network, was a tongue-in-cheek response to the sexist comments Michigan Republican Party Chair and University of Michigan Regent Ron Weiser made last month.
At a North Oakland Republican Club meeting, Weiser referred to the three top three female Democratic leaders in the state, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, as “witches” that Republicans need to defeat in 2022 by “burning at the stake.”
Weiser later said he was sorry for his “poorly chosen words” but declined to step down from either post. The U of M Board of Regents voted to censure Weiser and strip him of his committees.
Julia Pulver, a former Democratic House and Senate candidate, said Weiser’s comments were a “giant misstep.”
“He evoked in all of us an ancient kinship with all the people throughout history who have been called the same names and have faced these very real consequences,” Pulver said. “We are not far away from the witch hunts and witch trials of medieval Europe or puritanical Salem, Mass. Not when powerful women today, right here in our very own state, in the year 2021, continue to be called witches and are told to prepare to be burned at the stake. What other conclusion can we draw when this is not a one off comment? This is just the latest example in the downward spiral of political discourse in Michigan.”
State Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) spoke to the crowd, nodding to the eight Democratic “witches” serving in the Senate, but took a serious tone when he talked about the sexism he’s seen up close since his wife, Elizabeth Hertel, took the position of Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“I hate it when a politician can only see women as their wife or their mother, but it does affect you differently when it is your spouse. And what I’ve seen has educated me well past what I knew intellectually before of the way they treat women,” Curtis Hertel said.
Since Elizabeth Hertel has taken one of the highest-ranking roles in fighting the pandemic, “the attacks, the threats, the people who come by your house” are nothing like he has experienced in his two decades serving as an elected official, Hertel said.
“Witches do not pose a threat to democracy, good governance or progress,” Pulver said. “Witches are powerful, witches are smart, witches are resourceful, witches get stuff done. And when witches form a coven of other witches, their power only grows.”